Sakura Mochi

Good news, hanami fans–it’s officially sakura week at Thirsty for Tea! This year, I’ve decided to dedicate an entire week to sakura inspired tea ideas. While the cherry blossoms are blooming, there’s no better time to celebrate one of Japan’s most famous flowers.Although it may seem intimidating, making Sakura Mochi isn’t that difficult. The technique to create these rice cakes is similar to the way that savory dumplings are made. A small ball of red bean paste is tucked inside a layer of sweet rice that’s been dyed with red food coloring.To color these beautiful pinkish treats, I like to use beet juice instead of fake red food dye. The juice is very concentrated, but not as strong as regular food dye. Drizzle the juice over steamed glutinous rice, then use a rice spoon to gently fold the coloring in until it’s distributed evenly.I’ll admit, I think my Sakura Mochi turned out a shade darker than I prefer. Experiment with the beet juice a few drops at a time until you achieve the hue that pleases you. The trick here is to add the coloring after the rice is steamed. Cooked, beet juice completely looses its color.Sakura Mochi are most delicious when served with best quality Japanese green teamatcha, or Sakura Blossom Tea. Enjoy these in the beauty of the outdoors this season. On a spring picnic among the birds and the bees, nothing could be more festive!Sakura Mochi

Makes 10 mochi.


1 cup glutinous rice

1 1/4 cup warm water

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp beet juice

5 Tbsp smooth red bean paste

10 pickled sakura leaves, rinsed well & patted dry, with stem snipped off


rice cooker or pot


rice spoon

tsp measure

Tbsp measure


1. Rinse the glutinous rice several times with water until the water runs clear.

  1. 2. Dissolve the sugar in 1 1/4 cups of warm water. Add this to the rice, then let the rice soak with the sugar water for 30 minutes.

3. Cook the rice. When it is ready, let it sit at room temperature, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. Fluff the rice gently with chopsticks. Drizzle the beet juice evenly over the rice, then use a rice spoon to fold the color in until it is even. Cover, and set aside.

4. Create 10-1 1/2 tsp balls of red bean paste. Set aside.

5. With a wetted Tbsp measure and wet hands, create 3 Tbsp balls of the pink rice. Flatten each rice ball into a 3″ round disk. Place a ball of bean paste in the middle, then pull the edges of the rice disk up around the paste to envelope it. Pinch to seal closed.

6. Place a stuffed rice ball, pinched side down on the lower half of a sakura leaf. Take the top half of the leaf and fold it over so that it lies over the rice ball. Repeat steps 5 & 6 to make 10 Sakura Mochi.